FLAT BUT STILL FUN
For anyone who has ever felt slightly jealous of this trip at one point or another, now is your time to take solace. Swell and I have now been in polluted Panama City for over two weeks without a ridable wave in sight after a nearly flat February, an ear infection prior to that…and, okay, I’m sorry…I’ll stop whining. It’s amazing, though, how much the lack of wave-riding opportunities affects me. On a quest to constantly quench my surf-greedy thirst, I find myself comparing my wave tallies to those of other surfers I know. As soon as my quotas drop to dangerously low numbers, even a small setback on the way to the waves seems much more severe than it might at another time. Lately, I have found myself wondering whether my idea to ‘sailing around the world to surf’ has actually afforded me higher ‘wave-riding’ to ‘the rest of life’ ratios than I would have encountered had I chosen another strategy. Yes, I know this all sounds dramatic, and no, I don’t regret a single second I have spent out of the surf to keep my dream floating — literally — but I would consider my last two weeks as being in “the trenches” of the trip. When I step back, though, I can see that in the bigger picture it’s just a small hurdle and I will go on believing that the harder I work to make this all happen, the more I will eventually be rewarded!
I will go into more detail in my next update, but basically just when I thought I was at my personal limit for days without surf, I was faced with a boat that needed more attention than a two-year-old and a provisioning list for the South Pacific that would weaken the knees of the most ambitious of shoppers. I discovered a cracked thru-hull valve during what I’d hoped would be a fairly simple installation of an extra water tank. Then, while changing the main engine’s oil, I found that that my rear motor mounts were both broken. These alone were enough to set me back a week, but they were just the tip of the iceberg. I had carburetor problems in both my outboard and generator, my galley sink decided to rust out from underneath, my ripped headsail had to be to repaired…the list mushroomed and I found myself battling entropy from bow to stern. The boat exploded with tools and half-finished projects. When I’d I awaken in an exhausted heap on the cabin floor surrounded chaos and still covered in caulk and grease from the day, for half a second I’d wonder: couldn’t you have just gotten yourself a plane ticket and a nice backpack? Then I’d get up, turn on the music, and resume wherever I’d left off the day before. Skating the Amador causeway at night-with the skyline of highrises on one side and massive freighters exiting the Canal on the other-is really all that has preserved my last bit of sanity. So, I regret not getting this update out sooner, but it’s been all I could do to keep myself bathed and fed while whittling away at this massive list! So where was I…oh, Heather, Tera, and I had just made it to Panama…it was early February…
We found a magical little paradise on our first stop in Panama. Isla Parida offered up big orange moonrises, fresh tuna we’d caught on the way down, free diving, yoga, and hiking. Tera’s plane left for California in a few short days, though, so we headed north again toward her jumping-off place. Extremely calm weather allowed for a pit stop at a spot where I’d heard there was a wave, but usually it would be too exposed for anchoring. The swell wasn’t big, but there was enough energy in the water to smear whitewash around on the nearby reefs. While Tera rested aboard Swell, Heather and I headed off to see what we could find. My outboard was giving me problems, so we putted slowly around the offshore cloudbreaks and then shoreward. To my disbelief we came upon a shapely little wave peeling across a sandbar like toppling dominoes. After anchoring the dinghy, we paddled in to check it out. With neither a human nor a building in sight, I found myself in total shock as the peak in front of me lifted up and shifted my way. A poof of whitewater exploded on my back as I took off late. I made it to my feet and the face curved deliciously in front of me. It was just overhead and perfect for my Pablini quad-fin. I kicked out with a giggle 200yards later. Heather’s head was a speck appearing between swells as I paddled back out.
“You ready?” I asked her as we floated near the peak.
“Yep,” she smiled confidently.
“Okay, this one.”
As the wave rose behind us, I followed her strokes and sealed her entry with a solid shove shoreward. The water trail left by her board was all I could see until her head popped over the back of the wave. She rode and rode and rode it. I could faintly hear her hoot of delight from where she finally hopped off. I was elated. I knew how rare this moment was, especially this time of year-no one around, gorgeous setting, fun waves, and a friend to share it with. It was as if I’d hopped into one of the visions that had kept me going when I was covered in paint or fiberglass with a ‘to-do’ list a mile long. I’m not sure if Heather could fully understand how lucky we were that afternoon, but as far as I was concerned, we couldn’t have made out any better. The quad fin raced and turned on the rippable faces until the tide finally got too high. I stared into the horizon hoping for ‘just one more’ but I finally accepted that the moment was over. I was thankful for what we’d found and we putted happily back to Swell. It came and went too fast, but it is moments like this that keep me searching, working hard, and keeping the vision inside me alive.